July 11, 2022
Ian Bremmer’s Quick Take: Want to talk about President Biden’s upcoming trip to the Middle East. And this is getting a lot of attention in particular because he’s visiting Saudi Arabia. You will remember, it’s gotten a lot of play, that when Biden was running for the presidency, he said that Saudi Arabia should be a pariah, principally because of the assassination of Jamal Khashoggi, the civilian American and Saudi journalist that used to write for The Washington Post. And that if he became president, if Biden became president, that he would make Saudi Arabia and MBS into the pariah that they were. Now obviously, you’re making a trip to Saudi Arabia. Biden feels very sheepish about the fact that he is doing a 180 on that statement. Life has changed and Biden wrote a piece in The Washington Post this weekend about the fact that, given where the Russians are right now, given where the Chinese are right now, the US needs to focus on whatever support it can get from other countries.
I accept that as a reason, but I would be much more direct than that. The fact is that when you have a country that is a strategic partner of yours and has been for a long time, that also matters. And when that country behaves in ways that are more aligned with you strategically, you should recognize that and your behavior should change accordingly. Now, there’s no question in my mind that we have had significant differences with the Saudis in the past, and we still do. But Saudi Arabia’s also the largest arms purchaser from the United States in the world, and the US is the largest arms exporter in the world. Russia is number two. Won’t be for long given their manufacturing and supply chain challenges. So that matters, and that’s one of the reasons why the Trump administration had such a good relationship there, as did, frankly, the Obama administration and previous administrations.